Leading manufacturing and engineering businesses and their Sector Skills Council Semta today welcomed government plans to support companies to invest in training.

The plans, which include a £250m fund for businesses to design, develop and purchase vocational training and a £1500 incentive for small businesses taking on their first apprentices, aim to help businesses prepare for future growth opportunities by ensuring they have the right skills to compete.

As well as making it easier and quicker to hire an apprentice, the government wants to focus on where apprenticeships deliver greatest value – including on younger adults, new employees, higher level qualifications and particular sectors where they can make the greatest impact. These are all priorities that Semta has highlighted to government for its sectors.

Said Philip Whiteman, chief executive of Semta: “We are delighted with both the incentive for small businesses to take on young apprentices and the focus on sectors where they can make the greatest impact. We are looking forward to working with the government and the National Apprenticeship Service to maximise the benefits to the economy from increased apprenticeship activity in Semta’s high value-added sectors.”

Said Allan Cook CBE, chairman of Atkins, SELEX Galileo and Semta: “We want to make these incentives work because SMEs make up the vast majority of the strategically important manufacturing and engineering sectors. While apprenticeship training is funded and the payback is estimated to be between two and three years, the total cost can be a barrier to hiring apprentices in the current economic climate.”

Kevin Fitzpatrick, Vice President for Manufacturing, Nissan in the UK, said: “In the North East we are working with Semta on a strategic plan to tackle specific skills issues. More than 1,400 recruits are needed each year between now and 2016 to cover potential retirements and growth, 2,500 employees each year need to be upskilled to meet anticipated business demands and there needs to be a 10% increase every year in the number of apprenticeships starts. So we look forward to working with Semta and government to ensure funding is targeted at initiatives that will make a real difference to competitiveness. “

Eugene Van Jaarsvelt, Director of HR, Princess Yachts commented: “Through working with Semta, we know that investing in the right training is absolutely critical to business success – it can make a company more efficient, more productive and more profitable. With support we could increase our intake of apprentices by 50% so we are really pleased to see the Government understands the importance of training to business, and overall UK success. “

Semta has teamed up with leading employers and the National Apprenticeship Service to launch the Apprenticeship Ambition – a plan designed to take the number of advanced and higher level apprenticeship registrations from 8,000 to 16,000 by 2016 by tackling the barriers to apprenticeship uptake.

As part of the plan, Semta now offers an Apprenticeship Service that sees Semta manage the total process of training an apprentice, from recruitment, to training plan development, funding and training provider sourcing.